The following abuses were committed against Standardbreds at Hoosier Park. (The rulings come courtesy of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission.)

7/19/14, Lewayne Miller, “Whip-bleeding/welts” – no fine, 5-day suspension
From 5/13 to 7/1, Miller was “disciplined” three times for the same type of abuse. On this, his fourth act of cruelty in two months, he receives but a 5-day suspension.

7/26/14, Peter Wrenn, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

7/26/14, Dan Shetler, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

8/2/14, Luke Plano, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension
Back in May, Plano was disciplined twice within a week for whip abuse. He still drives.

8/9/14, Tyler Smith, “Kicking” – $100 fine, no suspension

8/9/14, Tyler Smith (again), “Kicking” – $300 fine, no suspension
Back in June, Smith was disciplined for the same type of abuse. In other words, Smith was caught kicking three different horses in two months – and still drives.

9/9/14, Bradley Hanners, “Whip-bleeding/welts” – $500 fine, no suspension
Back in May, Hanners was disciplined for the same type of abuse. He still drives.

9/9/14, Walter Haynes, “Whip-bleeding/welts” – $500 fine, no suspension

9/10/14, Terry Cullipher, “Whip-excessive” – $200 fine, no suspension

9/13/14, Charles Conrad, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

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9/16/14, Boby Brower, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/8/14, Ross Leonard, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/9/14, Edward Hensley, “Kicking” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/11/14, Donald Harmon, “Kicking” – $200 fine, no suspension

10/11/14, Donald Harmon (again), “Whip-excessive” – $500 fine, no suspension

10/11/14, Donald Harmon (again), “Kicking” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/11/14, Donald Harmon (again), “Whip-excessive” – $200 fine, no suspension
That’s four acts of abuse by Mr. Harmon in a single day.

10/15/14, Charles Conrad (again), “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/21/14, Richard Plano, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/22/14, Peter Wrenn (again), “Whip-indiscriminate” – $200 fine, no suspension

This is Indiana harness racing.

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The NYS Gaming Commission reports that 2-year-old Summer Hawk is dead after breaking down while “breezing” (training) at Belmont Park yesterday. Prior to dying, the colt had been put to the whip five times, most recently at Aqueduct in January. His trainer throughout, John Toscano; breeder, Bonnie Wooster.

Also, the California Horse Racing Board reports that 4-year-old Street Choir was euthanized on March 4th at Golden Gate for a “chronic infected left hind coffin bone/flexor tendon due to nail thru frog 1 year ago.” Street Choir had been raced five times, but nothing since December 2013. Trainer of record, Andy Mathis.

Through an “Open Records” request, I have confirmed the following 27 deaths on or at Texas racetracks in 2014:

2-year-old Eyes a Stoli, March 27, Sam Houston 7
Equibase merely said “injured, fell, vanned off.”

4-year-old Stop Talking, April 10, Lone Star 6 (euthanized April 24)
Equibase had him as finishing without incident.

3-year-old La Jolla Surprise, April 19, Sam Houston 3
Equibase merely said “fell after wire, vanned off.”

4-year-old Prowess, April 19, Lone Star, training
Final four races (Sep-Feb): last of 7, last of 10, 6th of 7, 10th of 12

4-year-old Moneyatlast, May 1, Lone Star 7
Equibase merely had her as “pulled up in distress, vanned off.”

3-year-old Tree Top Society, May 3, Lone Star, training
Dead after only one race (4/3, Oaklawn).

1-year-old Talking Man, May 7, Lone Star, training
This colt was put to the whip twice as a 1-year-old (2/22, 3/19, Louisiana Downs)

3-year-old It’s too Easy, May 8, Lone Star 7
Equibase merely had him as “went wrong early, vanned off.”

4-year-old Jess a Whisper, May 9, Sam Houston, unknown – “barn area”
A throwaway $5,000 claimer, hadn’t raced since previous October.

5-year-old Turbalo, May 9, Lone Star 7
Equibase merely said “went wrong early, vanned off.”

3-year-old Skyrunner, May 23, Lone Star, training
Still being raced at the maiden claiming level when killed on the practice track.

3-year-old Pink Gold, June 1, Lone Star 8
Equibase merely had her as “vanned off.”

3-year-old Part N Ways, June 10, Retama, training
In her last race – a $5,000 claiming at Remington in April – finished last of 10.

2-year-old Fishy Wagon, June 13, Retama 8
Equibase merely had her as “vanned off.”

3-year-old Shanes Social Cat, June 21, Lone Star 2
Reported as “broke down.”

4-year-old Halos Wild, June 28, Lone Star 9
Reported as “broke down.”

4-year-old Gleaming Girl, July 3, Lone Star 8
Reported as “broke down, euthanized.”

2-year-old He’s the Shot, July 12, Lone Star, unknown – “barn area”
Never raced.

2-year-old Dm Fly Belle Fly, August 9, Retama, training
Never raced.

6-year-old Miss Mulligan, August 16, Retama, training
41 career times under the whip; in last race (7/3, Lone Star), finished last of 11.

3-year-old Matagorda Bay, August 24, Gillespie 2
Reported as “broke down.”

4-year-old Strategic Player, September 12, Retama 5
Reported as “broke down.”

3-year-old Men Dee Go, September 26, Lone Star 3
Reported as “fell, euthanized.”

1-year-old Desiro/Fire Made, October 6, Lone Star, unknown – “barn area”
This yearling didn’t even have a name yet.

2-year-old Easy Cash Fenimore, October 18, Lone Star 5
Equibase merely said “injured, vanned off.”

3-year-old Chloe’s Posse, November 28, Retama 4
Equibase merely said “injured himself, vanned off.”

8-year-old Empire House, November 29, Retama 2
Equibase merely said “fell, vanned off.”

Of the 17 raceday kills, only 6 could have been gathered from the charts (and that’s only if you know that “broke down” is racing-speak for dead). Of the other 11, 10 were merely said to have been “vanned off,” while 1 was reported as finishing fine. Add the utterly unknowable 7 training/3 “non-track” deaths, and we’re left with this: As far as the public knew, only 6 racehorses died on or at Texas tracks in 2014, not the 27 we reveal today. The Big Cover-Up – again.


On the central matter of “casualties” and “catastrophic breakdowns,” while drugs, pre-existing injuries, track conditions, etc. are all certainly relevant, the simple truth is that the maiming and destruction of racehorses is inherent to the industry. Death at the track is, always has been, and always will be an inevitable part of racing.

And here’s why:

First, the anatomy. The typical horse does not reach full maturity – his bones are not done growing, plates not done fusing – till around six. And the higher up the body, the slower the process, so that the bones in the spine and neck, of all places, are the last to finish. The typical racehorse is thrust into “training” at around 18 months – and raced at two. On the maturation chart, a 2-year-old horse is the rough equivalent of a 6-year-old child. Imagine that. And this is something that will not change, for waiting till six to train and race horses would be cost prohibitive. It’s never going to happen.

Second, the horserace itself is an unequivocally unnatural act. “Born to run, love to compete” is a lie, at least in how the industry means it. Horses running and playing in an open field bears no resemblance to what happens at a racetrack. There, perched humans compel their charges to a breakneck speed – with a whip. There is no choice, no free will, no autonomy for naturally autonomous beings. Furthermore, in nature, horses understand self-preservation. So if injured, they know to stop, rest, and if possible, heal. At the track, not only are many of the injured “urged on” by their whip-wielding mates, but in a cruel twist, often try desperately to stay with their artificial herds. Again, no change is forthcoming, for the horserace can only exist by force.

Third, the economic realities of the business. The racing people are fond of saying, “since our success depends on healthy, happy horses, why would we do anything to compromise that?” Well, first, happy is more than mere sustenance and shelter; healthy is more than a mere ability to run. But beyond that, it’s crucial that the public understands how this industry works: The vast majority of racehorses are bought and sold multiple times over the course of their so-called careers, careers that generally don’t last long to begin with. So, the earning window for the current connections is almost always short-term – could be a few races, maybe a few months, perhaps a year or two – but the bottom line is that as a rule, the long-term well-being of the horse is of no concern. It’s maximize profits now, by all means – legal or otherwise – available.

And because most horses are worth less than a decent used car, and because most purses are artificially jacked with casino cash – cash that also allows many tracks to pay first through last – the horseman’s breakdown-risk to earnings-reward ratio is quite attractive. And because there’s always ample, affordable inventory, when problems do arise, they can always dump off to the next guy and acquire anew.

This leads to my final and most important point: The fundamental relationship itself – that of owner-owned – guarantees bad things will happen. Guarantees. By definition, a piece of property, a commodity, a resource, a means – all of which undeniably describe the racehorse – can have no meaningful protection under the law. In fact, it’s absurd to argue otherwise. Truth is, a horseman, if he so chooses, can run his horse into the ground – yes, even to death – with virtual impunity. There is no real accountability because this core relationship precludes real accountability. Neither the industry nor our society will ever, could ever, seriously punish a property owner for crimes against his property. Again, to say differently is pure folly.

Moreover, as it is with all animal-exploitation businesses, the law, as represented by anti-cruelty statutes, invariably defers to “common industry practice”; for 150 years of American horseracing, broken and dead bodies have been seen and treated as an unfortunate cost of doing business. In short, no one is watching; no one cares. In truth, to the racing industry, to government, to our society at large, a racehorse’s life does not matter. Alive or dead, it just doesn’t matter. So because of all this, I’m here to argue that short of shuttering the betting windows altogether, there is nothing they can do to stop the carnage. Nothing. And what’s more, they know it.

– Patrick Battuello